In a town with over seventy breweries, Threshold Brewing & Blending plans to make it one more. Despite a few recent closures and reports of slowing growth and shrinking margins, there is always room for the right brewery in the right place. Threshold Brewing thinks it can fill a gap in the previously underserved Montavilla neighborhood. Recently named one of the ten hottest neighborhoods to visit in America, Montavilla is a neighborhood on the east side of Mt. Tabor and home to Roscoe’s beer bar, Montavilla Brew Works, and bottleshop/taproom Beer Bunker, among some other solid craft beer options. The neighborhood, though, is one of a few that is still semi-affordable in Portland and remains central enough that it’s just a hop from inner eastside shopping and restaurant districts on Hawthorne, Division, Burnside, and Belmont. Before Threshold Brewing, Montavilla Brew Works has been the only brewery in the neighborhood. Threshold is coming along singing a popular tune of spontaneous fermentation, bold barrel-aging, mixed cultures of wild yeast and bacteria, and hazy tropical hopped IPAs with a niche tasting room and small batches.
Threshold Brewing and Blending recently made its intentions public with an indiegogo campaign to generate some operating capital, though the opening of the brewery will not rely on those funds. The lease is already secured and co-owners and co-brewers David Fuller and Jarek Szymanski are awaiting city permits to begin the buildout.
Threshold Brewing & Blending owners/brewers David Fuller and Jarek Szymanski
I sat down with Szymanski and Fuller at neighborhood taproom Roscoe’s, just two blocks from where the brewery will be located. These guys are affable homebrewers with a lot of inspiration from both the American craft beer revolution and European invention. Jarek is a native of Poland who took an internship in Portland and fell in love with craft beer, especially the big and bold barrel-aged imperial stouts, but also has a love for authentic Belgian styles. Jarek brings professional experience in product management, quality control and as a semi-pro photographer. David Fuller’s taste seems to lean more towards mixed fermentation and cultivating wild yeast beers, though he also is interested in juicy IPAs, water chemistry, and blending techniques. Rather than going big on kettle sours, he wants Threshold Brewing to be known more for its time-intensive barrel projects with yeast strains cultivated from the two men’s backyards, both of whom have lived in the Montavilla neighborhood since 2008, near where the brewery and tasting room will be located in the former garage of NW Elite Auto Sales at 403 SE 79th. The proximity to another brewery could be a boon for the brewery and the neighborhood. David and Jarek feel the area still has room for more craft beer and feel their beers will be different enough from MBW’s to complement its selection.
What does the name “Threshold” have to do with beer? David’s explanation of the meaning is: “Threshold Brewing & Blending is intended to communicate our philosophy of life through the diverse meanings of that word, ‘Threshold.’ The threshold of flavor, where you just start to taste something, and the balancing act as different flavors interact. The threshold of a home, a safe friendly place to seek shelter with your family and friends. The threshold of understanding, following the rabbit-hole deeper, always learning and evolving, never static. Life is a journey, and we are always on the threshold of some new experience.”
Threshold Brewing bottle samples of Plum Stout, Brett IPA and others
Threshold Brewing intends to launch its own unique spin on the hazy NE-style IPA trend, but the duo is cagey on what exactly that means. They list mixed fermentation beers from Cantillon and Jester King as big influences and intend to make blending of styles and single wild barrels part of their frequent repertoire, hence the subtitle “Brewing and Blending.” Both Jarek and David have house spontaneous cultures from their backyards and hope to inject a little local terroir into their time-intensive wild ales. “They are our babies that we watch over until they are grown. Some of our recipes are only achievable via blending different beers together. It is these beers that we are dying to share with the world. We also make a killer drinkable mixed-fermentation hoppy saison that doesn’t taste like anything we’ve had anywhere else,” says Fuller.
A peek inside the former auto garage that will become the brewery reveals a clean and open renovated space with room for a planned 10bbl brewery, plenty of barrels and a small tasting room. While both founders have families and kids, it’s unclear whether the space will be able to allow children. At first the plan is to concentrate on serving the neighborhood before dialing in the beers enough to package some cans for distribution. There won’t be a kitchen, but Jarek and David hope to have pop-up dinners with local chefs and restaurants.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.